100 books like The Limits to Growth

By Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows

Here are 100 books that The Limits to Growth fans have personally recommended if you like The Limits to Growth. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century

Charlotte Gray Author Of Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons: The Lives of Jennie Jerome Churchill and Sara Delano Roosevelt

From my list on history books by women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I recall my younger self looking at the reading lists on Oxford University history courses, and asking, “Where are all the women?” I have always wanted to know what it was like to be there, in any century up to the present. How did families form and pass on their values, what did people wear and eat, when (and if) children learned to read, and what were people’s daily routines? Political, military, and economic history is important, but I have flourished in the social history trenches. I discovered women writers and historians have more acute antennae for the details I wanted, even when writing about wars and dynasties.

Charlotte's book list on history books by women

Charlotte Gray Why did Charlotte love this book?

Who knew that an account of a disappeared medieval world could be so gripping?

I’ve always regarded history as a literary and intellectual exercise, and Pulitzer-winning Barbara Tuchman has been my model ever since I picked up this absorbing history of a Europe riven by war, climate catastrophes, plague, and religious schisms.

Academic historians might denigrate Tuchman’s approach, but through pen-portraits and narrative momentum, Tuchman immersed me in a world that had subtle echoes of today.

By Barbara W. Tuchman,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Distant Mirror as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The fourteenth century was a time of fabled crusades and chivalry, glittering cathedrals and grand castles. It was also a time of ferocity and spiritual agony, a world of chaos and the plague.

Here, Barbara Tuchman masterfully reveals the two contradictory images of the age, examining the great rhythms of history and the grain and texture of domestic life as it was lived: what childhood was like; what marriage meant; how money, taxes and war dominated the lives of serf, noble and clergy alike.

Granting her subjects their loyalties, treacheries and guilty passions, Tuchman recreates the lives of proud cardinals,…


Book cover of Small Is Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered

Ray Cunningham Author Of The Post-Growth Project: How the End of Economic Growth Could Bring a Fairer and Happier Society

From my list on our fatal addiction to economic growth.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my career, I managed research into how the problems of modern industrial society are tackled in different countries. This reflected my own comparative instinct, which arose out of growing up bilingual and at home in two cultures. My journey into politics, sociology, and economics made me increasingly aware of the blindness of our social arrangements to the growing ecological crisis – and of how this blindness is perpetuated by the narrow silos of our political and academic systems. Our only hope now lies with thinkers who can escape those silos and integrate different perspectives into a holistic understanding. We don’t need more specialists, but generalists. Fewer economists, more moral philosophers. 

Ray's book list on our fatal addiction to economic growth

Ray Cunningham Why did Ray love this book?

The book that gave birth to the slogan... This is an iconoclastic look at the capitalist economy from a man who trained as an academic economist and worked for the National Coal Board. Schumacher thought creatively and wrote and spoke in a lively and engaging way and the book is an accessible introduction to a different way of thinking about what the purpose of an economy, or economics, is.

Also, Schumacher was invited to become the first Director of the Anglo-German Foundation for the Study of Industrial Society, but felt that he was already too old for the job. Many years later, I became the Foundation’s last Director.

By E.F. Schumacher,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Small Is Beautiful as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This New York Times bestselling “Eco Bible” (Time magazine) teaches us that economic growth must be responsibly balanced with the needs of communities and the environment.

“Embracing what Schumacher stood for--above all the idea of sensible scale--is the task for our time. Small is Beautiful could not be more relevant. It was first published in 1973, but it was written for our time.” — Bill McKibben, from the Foreword

Small Is Beautiful is Oxford-trained economist E. F. Schumacher’s classic call for the end of excessive consumption. Schumacher inspired such movements as “Buy Locally” and “Fair Trade,” while voicing strong opposition…


Book cover of The Prince

Keith Grint Author Of Leadership: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on understanding why we get the leaders we do.

Why am I passionate about this?

There’s something about leadership that intrigues me. I was an army child and that might help explain why I was expelled from school and had a rather unorthodox pre-academic career: I had fourteen jobs in nine years between leaving school and starting university, and several of those involved significant leadership roles that clashed with managerial authority. Both my undergraduate degrees and my doctorate were focused on trying to understand how authority worked, so it was almost inevitable that I ended up as a leadership scholar. But my greatest achievements have been co-founding the journal Leadership in 2005 and its related International Studying Leadership Conference, now in its 20th year.

Keith's book list on understanding why we get the leaders we do

Keith Grint Why did Keith love this book?

Machiavelli is often despised as the man who promoted both authoritarian leaders and the notion that the ends justify the means, but this is to misunderstand the importance of the context within which he was writing: 16th century Florence – which was besieged by enemies on every side who proclaimed adherence to the Christian faith but acted as monsters. Machiavelli’s writing made two things clear to me. First, leaders and leadership cannot be understood if you abstract them from their context – when political morality is a contradiction in terms then leaders must be wary of sacrificing their followers for the sake of that same fallacious morality. Second, he lays out how dictators obtain and retain power – and in doing so establishes what we need to do to stop them or remove them. 

By Niccolò Machiavelli, Tim Parks (translator),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Prince as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is the world's most famous master plan for seizing and holding power.  Astonishing in its candor The Prince even today remains a disturbingly realistic and prophetic work on what it takes to be a prince . . . a king . . . a president.  When, in 1512, Machiavelli was removed from his post in his beloved Florence, he resolved to set down a treatise on leadership that was practical, not idealistic.  In The Prince he envisioned would be unencumbered by ordinary ethical and moral values; his prince would be man and beast, fox and lion.  Today, this small…


Book cover of Collapse

Mordecai George Sheftall Author Of Blossoms In The Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze

From my list on how culture makes us do self-destructive things.

Why am I passionate about this?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up expecting to spend that day – and the rest of my academic career – leisurely studying the interplay of culture and individual temperament in second language acquisition. As the rest of that terrible day unfolded, however, my research up to that point suddenly seemed very small and almost decadently privileged. Recruiting the rudimentary cultural anthropology toolbox I had already amassed, I took a deep breath and plunged into the rabbit hole of studying the role of culture in human conflict. Twenty-two years later, using my Japan base and relevant language skills, my research has focused on the Japanese experience in World War II.

Mordecai's book list on how culture makes us do self-destructive things

Mordecai George Sheftall Why did Mordecai love this book?

Have you ever encountered an idea in a book that made such a lasting impression on you that, almost like the “flashbulb” memory of a life – or world-changing event, you can remember the exact circumstances of where you were when you first read it?

Jared Diamond’s Collapse – which I picked up at an airport bookshop as “light reading” for a long flight – ended up providing me with just such an experience. The book holds that culture can fatally inure us, like so many slowly (and initially comfortably) boiling frogs, to the existential threat of environmental destruction, particularly in the context of the overexploitation of natural resources.

Diamond’s account of the last days of Easter Island civilization is particularly harrowing, and has haunted me ever since.

By Jared Diamond,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Collapse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive is a visionary study of the mysterious downfall of past civilizations.

Now in a revised edition with a new afterword, Jared Diamond's Collapse uncovers the secret behind why some societies flourish, while others founder - and what this means for our future.

What happened to the people who made the forlorn long-abandoned statues of Easter Island?
What happened to the architects of the crumbling Maya pyramids?
Will we go the same way, our skyscrapers one day standing derelict and overgrown like the…


Book cover of The Collapse of Complex Societies

William Ophuls Author Of Electrifying the Titanic

From my list on the grim ecological-political future.

Why am I passionate about this?

William Ophuls served as a Foreign Service Officer in Washington, Abidjan, and Tokyo before receiving a PhD in political science from Yale University in 1973. His Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity published in 1977 laid bare the ecological, social, and political challenges confronting modern industrial civilization. It was honored by the Kammerer and Sprout awards. After teaching briefly at Northwestern University, he became an independent scholar and author. He has since published a number of works extending and deepening his original argument, most prominently Requiem for Modern Politics in 1997, Plato’s Revenge: Politics in the Age of Ecology in 2011, and Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail in 2013.

William's book list on the grim ecological-political future

William Ophuls Why did William love this book?

Tainter makes a powerful and almost irrefutable case for complexity as the key to understanding both the rise and the fall of civilizations. In essence, complexity builds and builds until it is no longer manageable, so collapse ensues. That Tainter does not sufficiently appreciate the role that ecological limits, physical constraints, moral decline, and practical bungling can also play in the process does not detract from the power and utility of his argument. For these latter factors, see my own Immoderate Greatness.

By Joseph Tainter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Collapse of Complex Societies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Any explanation of political collapse carries lessons not just for the study of ancient societies, but for the members of all complex societies in both the present and future. Dr Tainter describes nearly two dozen cases of collapse and reviews more than 2000 years of explanations. He then develops a new and far-reaching theory that accounts for collapse among diverse kinds of societies, evaluating his model and clarifying the processes of disintegration by detailed studies of the Roman, Mayan and Chacoan collapses.


Book cover of The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam

Aparna Pande Author Of From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India's Foreign Policy

From my list on history and foreign policy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Foreign policy has been my passion since I was a child. My father was a civil servant and growing up in India, I always wanted to follow in his footsteps but instead of working on domestic issues, I wanted to work on international affairs. History was another passion of mine and I wanted to combine the two of them in such a way that I studied the past in order to explain the present and help the future. This passion led me to enroll in a PhD program in the United States and then work at a think tank. I have written three books, two of which focus exclusively on foreign policy. I hope you enjoy reading the books I have listed and read my book.  

Aparna's book list on history and foreign policy

Aparna Pande Why did Aparna love this book?

This classic, from the 1980s, is a must-read for history buffs and those interested in international affairs. The author cites examples from ancient Greece to the 1970s, to demonstrate how empires and nations often make decisions that are detrimental to their long-term interests. I love this book for its writing style which is captivating, for the breath of its examples which range from ancient times to modern-day and for the recommendations this book gives not just for political leaders but those in business and other walks of life.

By Barbara W. Tuchman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The March of Folly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Barbara W. Tuchman, author of the World War I masterpiece The Guns of August, grapples with her boldest subject: the pervasive presence, through the ages, of failure, mismanagement, and delusion in government.
 
Drawing on a comprehensive array of examples, from Montezuma’s senseless surrender of his empire in 1520 to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Barbara W. Tuchman defines folly as the pursuit by government of policies contrary to their own interests, despite the availability of feasible alternatives. In brilliant detail, Tuchman illuminates four decisive turning points in history that illustrate the very heights of folly: the Trojan…


Book cover of Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet

Mark A. Maslin Author Of How To Save Our Planet: The Facts

From my list on helping you save our beautiful precious planet.

Why am I passionate about this?

The world around us is an amazing and beautiful place and for me science adds another layer of appreciation. I am a Professor of Earth System Science at University College London - which means I am lucky enough to research climate change in the past, the present, and the future. I study everything from early human evolution in Africa to the future impacts of anthropogenic climate change.  I have published over 190 papers in top science journals. I have written 10 books, over 100 popular articles and I regularly appear on radio and television. My blogs on the 'Conversation' have been read over 5.5 million times and you might want to check them out!

Mark's book list on helping you save our beautiful precious planet

Mark A. Maslin Why did Mark love this book?

Let us be realistic, we all know that our economic system is broken. We cannot go on making stuff and throwing it away on a finite planet.

There are now 8 billion people on Earth all wanting to have a good life. So what is the alternative to economic growth? Well, Tim wonderfully shows us how the economy of tomorrow could protect employment, facilitate social investment, reduce inequality, and deliver both ecological and financial stability.

When this book was first published it was seen as a radical and dangerous text. Now with the rise of environmental and ecological economics it is the fundamental book that kicked off the revolution in the way we see the future.

By Tim Jackson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Prosperity without Growth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is more economic growth the solution? Will it deliver prosperity and well-being for a global population projected to reach nine billion? In this explosive book, Tim Jackson - a top sustainability adviser to the UK government - makes a compelling case against continued economic growth in developed nations.

No one denies that development is essential for poorer nations. But in the advanced economies there is mounting evidence that ever-increasing consumption adds little to human happiness and may even impede it. More urgently, it is now clear that the ecosystems that sustain our economies are collapsing under the impacts of rising…


Book cover of Sustainability: A Cultural History

Ray Cunningham Author Of The Post-Growth Project: How the End of Economic Growth Could Bring a Fairer and Happier Society

From my list on our fatal addiction to economic growth.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my career, I managed research into how the problems of modern industrial society are tackled in different countries. This reflected my own comparative instinct, which arose out of growing up bilingual and at home in two cultures. My journey into politics, sociology, and economics made me increasingly aware of the blindness of our social arrangements to the growing ecological crisis – and of how this blindness is perpetuated by the narrow silos of our political and academic systems. Our only hope now lies with thinkers who can escape those silos and integrate different perspectives into a holistic understanding. We don’t need more specialists, but generalists. Fewer economists, more moral philosophers. 

Ray's book list on our fatal addiction to economic growth

Ray Cunningham Why did Ray love this book?

An eminently readable account of the emergence (or re-discovery) of the concept that might just be the antidote to our growth addiction – sustainability. Grober is perhaps best described as belonging to the now neglected tradition of natural philosophy, which means his analysis often finds its starting point in nature but leads to critical insights into human society and institutions. His work ranges across an impressive and always fascinating historical, geographic, and philosophical span.

I translated this book from the original German because I thought its message was urgently needed (and Caroline Lucas, the UK’s only Green MP, agreed in her endorsement). If we are to avoid the catastrophe that our fixation on economic growth is leading us into, we will need a new lodestone. Sustainability may be our best option.

By Ulrich Grober, Ray Cunningham (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sustainability as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A compelling analysis of the meaning of sustainability and development of the modern concept... Well researched and written... I recommend it to all environmentally-minded readers." - Paul Fitzpatrick, Green World

From diets to economic growth, everything these days has to be 'sustainable'. But the word's currency should not obscure its origins: sustainability is an age-old aspiration; a concept deeply rooted in human culture. Though in danger of abuse and overuse today, it can still be recovered from its present inflationary coinage.

In clear and thought-provoking terms, Ulrich Grober reassesses the concept of sustainability using a range of fascinating historical instances…


Book cover of The Limits to Growth

Bruce Nappi Author Of Collapse 2020 Vol. 1: Fall of the First Global Civilization

From my list on the impending collapse of global civilization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was an Eagle Scout selected for the 1964 North Pole expedition, graduate of MIT with both BS and MS degrees in Aero Astro – yes, a true MIT rocket scientist. I quickly took planning roles at the “bleeding edge” of technology: missiles, nuclear power, heart pumps, DNA sequencing, telemedicine… In every case, however, the organizations were plagued by incompetence and corruption. As an individual, I interacted with activist leaders in movements for: peace, climate, social justice, ending poverty, etc. Again, incompetence and corruption. Throughout, I dug for answers into the wisdom of the classics and emerging viewpoints. Finally. All that effort paid off. I found the “big picture”! 

Bruce's book list on the impending collapse of global civilization

Bruce Nappi Why did Bruce love this book?

Limits To Growth summarized the first major computer simulation of world society. It was comprehensive, including the influence of: human population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion. The results were sobering! It showed that, if major limits were not established for human population, pollution, and resource depletion, a severe collapse of human society would follow in the near future. What most people do not know is, the report was so disturbing it was accepted by the United Nations for action. It was so well received by world leaders that, by 1974, almost every world nation agreed to take major steps to set such limits. China, for example, established its one-child family policy. Ironically, the U.S. refused any commitment. By 1978, carbon industry disinformation killed all the commitments.

By Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Limits to Growth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Examines the factors which limit human economic and population growth and outlines the steps necessary for achieving a balance between population and production. Bibliogs


Book cover of How to Stop a Conspiracy: An Ancient Guide to Saving a Republic

Emily Katz Anhalt Author Of Embattled: How Ancient Greek Myths Empower Us to Resist Tyranny

From my list on why Ancient Greece and Rome matter today.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first visited ancient Greece as an undergraduate. Homer and Plato seemed to speak directly to me, addressing my deepest questions. How do you live a good life? What should you admire? What should you avoid? Frustrated by English translations (each offers a different interpretation), I learned to read ancient Greek and then Latin. In college and then graduate school, I came to know Homer, Plato, Aeschylus, Cicero, Ovid, and many others in their own words. The ancient Greeks and Romans faced the same existential struggles and anxieties as we do. By precept, example, and counter-example, they remind me of humanity’s best tools: discernment, deliberation, empathy, generosity.

Emily's book list on why Ancient Greece and Rome matter today

Emily Katz Anhalt Why did Emily love this book?

Osgood details the ancient version of a phenomenon we may recognize: a cold-blooded grift by a charismatic, lawless, leader transmuted into terrorism while posing as patriotism.

Detailing the violent conspiracy of L. Sergius Catilina (63 BCE), Osgood’s elegant translation of Sallust’s The War Against Catiline (c. 43 BCE) emphasizes the danger that political violence and intimidation pose to communal welfare and stability. The Romans never found the recipe for combining individual freedom with equality and political harmony. (Rome’s 450-year-old Republic ultimately devolved into civil war and autocracy.)

Sallust’s tale and Rome’s experience caution us against preserving inequities even as we seek to preserve the rule of law.

By Sallust, Josiah Osgood (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Stop a Conspiracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An energetic new translation of an ancient Roman masterpiece about a failed coup led by a corrupt and charismatic politician

In 63 BC, frustrated by his failure to be elected leader of the Roman Republic, the aristocrat Catiline tried to topple its elected government. Backed by corrupt elites and poor, alienated Romans, he fled Rome while his associates plotted to burn the city and murder its leading politicians. The attempted coup culminated with the unmasking of the conspirators in the Senate, a stormy debate that led to their execution, and the defeat of Catiline and his legions in battle. In…


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